Houma, La. - It's considered a site for classified ads, much like Craigslist. But in the adult section of Backpage.com, Houma Police Chief Todd Duplantis says, something illegal is going on.
"Through our narcotic division, they were receiving information through confidential informants that there was a problem of prostitution being conducted by a website," says Duplantis.
Houma police arrested 15 men and one woman over the weekend for solicitation of prostitution.
Duplantis says officers arranged meet-ups at a local hotel through the website. When the men showed up and offered cash for sex, police arrested them.
"Different races, different ages, it's a wide variety of individuals that were arrested," says Duplantis.
Among those charged was William James, the band director at South Terrebonne High School.
Police also arrested Tarnish Brown of Fresno, Texas. Investigators say she posted her own listing on Backpage offering sex.
This is the first time Houma police have ever gone online for an operation like this, and Chief Duplantis says he's surprised how many local postings are on the site.
"We've done prior prostitution operations as far as on the street level and we, at most times, arrested three, four individuals," he says. "It definitely seems to be a problem that we're going to have to start addressing."
Duplantis says online prostitution is not only illegal, it can be dangerous.
In 2011, Jefferson Parish investigators say Kylan Laurent murdered Anita McDonald in a Kenner hotel after the two arranged a meeting on Backpage. Laurent jumped off Veterans Memorial Bridge while being chased by State Police. Deputies later found 22 cell phones in his home and suspect he had other victims.
Chief Duplantis says this investigation was eye- opening for him. "We will be monitoring these different sites," he says. "People do come forward to the police and tell us what's going on and we do have intentions to do more of these to try to alleviate this problem."